Come together

Travel | Cara Chen 12 Jun 2020

Hong Kong's art scene has been dampened since the cancellation of Art Basel and Art Central in February, followed by a string of delays for other art events, such as gallery exhibitions. Fortunately, things have turned around and a new art fair is poised to reenergize the art world.

Organized by the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association, the Unscheduled art fair will take place in the heritage-listed Duplex Studio at Tai Kwun's police headquarters block from June 18 to 27.

Unlike fairs that bring together hundreds of galleries from around the world, Unscheduled will showcase 12 Hong Kong-based HKAGA members, who will present solo shows focused on an Asian theme. Proceeds from ticket sales (HK$80) will be split among the galleries and local charity Hands on Hong Kong.

"In addition to selecting galleries and artists, curators have a role in sorting out a narrative between the different artworks," said Sara Wong, one of the curators.

Although Wong and her partner Kwok Ying initially contemplated several Asia-related subjects as they had no idea what kind of artworks they were going to get, they ended up spontaneously agreeing on "distance" as a keyword that ties the works' narratives together.

Social distancing was prevalent during the event's planning stages, and the artists happened to create a distance between the artwork and the audience either by their approach or subject matter.

"Looking at the works one by one, we immediately saw that there were similar approaches and interests between some works," said Kwok.

The artists were then split into groups according to their connection with the keyword "distance." "We divided them into three groups and thought about how to describe the relationship between them."

The first group has a deliberate engagement with the subject matter in artistic practices - as seen in the works of "Frog King" Kwok Mang-ho from 10 Chancery Lane, Ng Chung from Contemporary by Angela Li, Huang Dan from Galerie Ora-Ora, Irene Chou from Hanart TZ Gallery and Aruta Soup from L+ / Lucie Chang Fine Arts.

"Although the subject matters are diverse, their works are very engaging," said Wong, citing the"Frog King" as an example of an artist who addresses emotions heavily on each vivid stroke.

Some works directly respond to the theme of Asian society through their motifs or subject matter, while others approach the theme more subtly through an Asian view of the world.

Described by Kwok as "indirect," the second group intentionally creates distance to avoid direct encounters with the subject matter.

In this group, Mak Ying Tung 2 from de Sarthe presents Home Sweet Home, a series of triptychs. The artist depicts dream-like home environments using bizarre elements from life simulation game The Sims. Distance is seen in the piece as painters from e-commerce platform Taobao were hired to complete the work.

Like Mak, artists in this group minimize direct involvement with their creations, Kwok explained. This is also seen in the works of Etsu Ogami from Whitestone Gallery, Kitty Chou from Ben Brown Fine Arts and Liu Bolin from Over The Influence.

The third group of artists are even more "detached." This sense of calmness and minimalism is experienced in the works Duan Yifan from Leo Gallery, Chou Yu-Cheng from Edouard Malingue Gallery, Peter Peri from Pearl Lam Galleries and Heman Chong from Rossi & Rossi.

"Categorizing artists into three groups allows us to systematically understand the relations between each artwork," Kwok pointed out. "But as an exhibition is always about visual art, when it came to the actual floor planning, we pictured ourselves as audiences and looked for the visual connection between those artworks from different groups."

The curatorial idea is another feature of Unscheduled, adopting a nine-grid layout where each booth is connected to at least three others.

As audiences navigate the space, they may spot connections between different works - whether by theme, technique or just visual similarity.

"Usually, when there are so many artists in a group exhibition, most of them will have a theme," said Kwok. "However, while Unscheduled connects artists with a theme, artists can express themselves freely. There is no curator's interpretation between the artist and the audience."

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